Vatican City, January 7: Pope Francis baptized 16 babies in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday under the ceiling frescoed by Michelangelo, in what has become an annual tradition near the end of the Christmas holiday period at the Vatican. Among the babies who were carried by parents to the pontiff were a boy and girl who are twins.

Francis used a shell-shaped container to pour baptismal water over the head of each baby, and pronounced each child's name. As he has before at baptism ceremonies, Francis kept his homily brief. He remarked that the babies at that moment were being quiet but noted that often one starts crying and then the others join in. Pope Francis Approves Blessings To Same-Sex Couples, Says 'People Should Not Be Subjected To Exhaustive Moral Scrutiny'.

That didn't happen at this year's ceremony, and the infants largely stayed quiet as they sucked on pacifiers or were gently rocked in their parents' arms. Some of the babies were dressed in traditional long and frilly white christening outfits. Other infants wore coveralls. One baby boy sported a blue bow tie and another blue socks.

Near the ceremony's end, Francis told the parents that the day of baptism is "like a birthday”. He urged them to make sure their children learn the date of their baptism, the day “they became Christians” and celebrate on that date every year. Sex Abuse by Priests and Church Officials: Pope Francis Blasts 'Scandal' of Clergy Sexual Abuse in Portugal, Meets Survivors.

Each family was presented with a long, white candle. “Look at it in difficult moments," the pope said. “This candle brings us back to our Christian roots — never extinguish it in our heart.” Before leaving the chapel in a wheelchair guided by an aide, Francis patted the cheeks or heads of the babies. He blew a kiss to the young brother of one of the newly baptized.